Creativity – In the Kitchen with Katherine Frankstone
In this series on The Southern C, I am thrilled to introduce our readers to some of the interesting and creative Southerners we meet online through our social network and also in “real life” at The Southern C Summits. These individuals are the artists, designers, creators, makers and doers that are shaping our landscape with their vision and ingenuity. Go behind the scenes to get a glimpse into their studio, find out what they are working on, discover the path that led them to this moment and gain insight into what motivates and inspires their work and lives.
The subjects and their niche may vary but many share the paradoxical traits of creative individuals – they daydream, observe, ask big questions, people watch, seek new experiences, view life as an opportunity for self-expression, take risks and bounce back all while following their true passions. We hope you will be inspired as we spotlight the creativity that abounds in our region. According to Einstein, “Creativity is contagious” and this is one thing we are happy to spread.
This week, I would like to introduce you to Katherine Frankstone of Grey Ghost Bakery. I first tried her delicious cookies several years ago at The Southern C Summit and believe me, once you taste them, you won’t forget them! After decades of satisfying the sweet teeth of her husband, sons, and flocks of friends with her perfectly balanced crisp yet chewy cookies, Katherine followed her entrepreneurial desire and transformed her hobby into a specialty food company and Grey Ghost Bakery was born. With a variety of flavors, all stemming from her family recipes perfected over generations and using only fresh, all- natural ingredients, she is making quite the impression in the South and well beyond. Sounds like a Southern creative to me!
Katherine Frankstone and Family
Describe your brand and how it got started:
Grey Ghost Bakery produces made-from-scratch, hand formed cookies in a variety of addicting flavors, including Lemon Sugar, Chocolate Espresso, Molasses Spice, Cinnamon Pecan, Chocolate Cayenne and Cranberry Orange. We are excited to introduce three new flavors this summer: Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip.
Our cookies are made with premium all-natural ingredients and were developed from recipes that I have been making almost as long as I can remember! I have always loved to bake and also always wanted to have my own business. When the oldest of our three sons went off to college, I decided to marry the two and start Grey Ghost Bakery.
Describe a typical day in your work life:
Until late in 2013, I was hands-on in the bakery, but I realized I needed to delegate the baking in order to grow the business. As much as loved baking every cookie, handling sales and planning requires just as much creativity. I learn something new every day, and each day is different. I may be handling the bookkeeping in the morning and then designing our trade show booth or redesigning our packaging in the afternoon.
What did you want to be when you grew up and how has your background influenced your work?
I wanted to be a pastry chef and own a bakery but didn’t think I had the business knowledge to make that work, so I went to business school instead. I worked for a bank for a few years before having children and then worked in the nonprofit sector for some time. All those experiences have been invaluable in getting Grey Ghost Bakery off the ground. It’s ironic that I have come full circle and am doing what I wanted to do as a teenager! It was the years in between that gave me the experience and confidence to get Grey Ghost Bakery going.
Any “a-ha” moment that made you take the leap?
Starting a food company without any prior knowledge of the industry was like putting together a huge jigsaw puzzle. Every time I thought I had the edges complete and could start filling in the center, a new question would come up that I hadn’t even thought to ask. It was as if my jigsaw puzzle kept expanding and at one point, I questioned whether or not I could make it work. Finally, a friend called and followed up on an earlier request for a donation of cookies to a special event, and she asked to buy 18 bags of cookies for Christmas gifts as well. I was able to get labels printed and delivered those cookies the first week of December. By Christmas, I had sold an additional 300 bags by word of mouth. That’s when I knew I had to keep putting that puzzle together!
Favorite biz tool, app or resource?
The Specialty Food Association in New York has been a fantastic resource, through educational programs they offer online and in conjunction with the Fancy Food Show each summer. Networking and taking inspiration from other entrepreneurs is my other best resource. Folks in the food business are friendly and helpful and fun!
Where do you find inspiration?
All of our recipes are based on cookies or other desserts that I grew up making or eating! Our three original flavors, Chocolate Espresso, Cinnamon Pecan and Molasses Spice are our family favorites and our Lemon Sugar cookie was inspired by a delicious lemon bundt cake my mother used to make.
The rare day off – what do you do to unwind?
We relocated from Columbia, SC to Charleston a little over a year ago, so now my best relaxation is walking on the beach or watching the birds in the marsh behind our home. Walking the Ravenel Bridge over the Cooper River is a close second.
Best business advice you ever received?
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” was one of my mother’s favorite sayings and of course “The customer is always right!”
Thank you, Katherine! It was a pleasure “meeting” you.
(images via Grey Ghost Bakery, Brian Dressler, Andrew Cebulka)
For more of Whitney’s Southern Creatives Q&A’s click the names below:
Whitney Wise Long, co-founder of The Southern C and The Southern C Summit, loves to connect with Southern entrepreneurs and learn more about their creative endeavors.
This series – “In the Studio With” – offers her the perfect opportunity to do so!